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Teenage tanning leads to shocking cancer selfie

WATCH ABOVE: Her graphic selfie was meant to send a message. That tanning glow can have serious consequences. Allison Vuchnich reports.

TORONTO – The two images are in stark contrast – the smiling young woman with the seemingly healthy glowing skin, and the shocking selfie taken after a cancer treatment.

Tawny Willoughby posted the graphic selfie as a warning, hoping someone will learn from her mistake.

“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like,” Willoughby wrote on her Facebook page.

The registered nurse from Alabama says as a teenager she was focused, like most of her friends, on tanning. She used a tanning bed four to five times a week. Her first cancer diagnosed came when she was 21 years old, now at 27 she has had carcinoma six times.

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Willoughby has not been diagnosed with melanoma.

“I’m very thankful to not have had melanoma!” she posted.

“Melanoma kills, non melanoma disfigures (and can also kill). Don’t be a statistic!”

According to the Melanoma Network of Canada:

  • Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide
  • 90 per cent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight, including tanning beds
  • Melanoma is one of the few cancers to affect young adults and is the second most common cancer among 15-34 year olds
  • Melanoma is most common on the backs of men and on the legs of women, although it can appear anywhere on the skin

As beach weather is starting, the American Academy of Dermatology created the video Who’s Got Your Back? The video explains how most melanoma appears on the back, and how it is almost impossible to apply sunscreen to your own back, you need assistance.

For Willoughby, she is now a mother of a two-year-old boy. She is vigilant about applying sunscreen and limiting her time in the sun. She sees her dermatologist every six to 12 months and is still having skin cancer removed at almost every checkup.

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“Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two-year-old little boy of my own,” she advises.

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